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House of the Dragon

I was barely even aware that the new Game of Thrones prequel was coming out already.

I watched the premiere of House of the Dragon last night and, no surprise, it is beautifully made: great cast, stunning production.

It reminded me why Game of Thrones was so beguiling in the first place: the combination of swords and sorcery with grounded, medieval brutality was like nothing we had ever seen.

And yet the new show had a certain familiarity that made me think, “Not this again.” As in, we can see from a mile away how the storylines will probably play out.

It also seems to be lacking in the “common touch”: we need good people, like the Starks, to root for, amidst all the depraved rulers.

The last thing I want this blog to be is a collection of “time bombs” that could blow up my career if, years from now, people find out that I dumped on their projects.

So this is not a TV review!

But I do want a muse for a moment about a very real law of the universe: the law of diminishing returns.

This is the reason why the second candy bar doesn’t taste as good as the first.

I remember the late 1980s: Star Wars, the biggest, most incredible thing ever in genre entertainment, that had absolutely dominated our fanboy lives (back when we were literal boys, most of us), was thoroughly old news.

We looked at our Kenner Star Wars toys in the back of the closet and were like, ugh. The cool stuff was Aliens, RoboCop, Predator, Die Hard, etc.

Rule of thumb: Stuff from 10 years ago is lame. But—stuff from 20 years ago is cool! By then, you forget all the disappointing parts, and have tons of nostalgia for the good stuff.

Sure enough, by 1997, Star Wars was peaking again—and about to give birth to the prequels.

When did Star Trek really become a pop (as opposed to cult) phenomenon? With The Voyage Home—the 20th anniversary. (It helped that the movie was so good.)

So Game of Thrones is presently in this “10-year window,” where we’re still burnt out from our massive investment in the characters and storytelling...but we haven’t gotten over the familiarity of all the tropes: the rotten rulers, feuding families, etc.

Not to mention—the ending.

I actually liked the ending of Game of Thrones. I found it way too abrupt, but there were only so many places the story could go—and I liked their choices, for the most part.

The problem was that they broke their own rules.

Game of Thrones promised to be a different kind of storytelling from usual television—and for some five years, it was!

It was a world where people died, unexpectedly. Nothing ever got better. The world was full of evil and chaos. Certain narrative things took forever—namely, travel.

It felt real—because in reality, nothing ever really gets better, does it? Evil is everywhere. It’s a terrible world, and all you can really do is find a little bit of hope and humanity where you can.

But Game of Thrones then went, “Whoops, change of plans. We’re going to wrap it up—because, television.”

And whereas it used to take a whole season to get from one end of Westeros to the other, suddenly characters were doing it twice an episode.

The worst thing any movie or TV show can do is break its own rules. Even if, in the case of Game of Thrones, the rules were wildly overpromising.

I mean, truly, Game of Thrones was way better and certainly more expensive than anything we had any right to expect.

So, here we are, where obviously for business reasons we’re getting a lot more Game of Thrones, even if the audience isn’t exactly clamoring for it.

It truly is a magnificent franchise, so I’ll be interested in seeing what they do.

I do remember that after Breaking Bad, the last thing I thought I wanted was a show all about the scummy lawyer. But Better Call Saul was absolutely fantastic.

Execution matters!

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